So here I am standing on the threshold of the Disney Renaissance but, in order to get there, I first need to watch Oliver & Company. This is one of those rare films that I was acutely aware of as a child, due to my old VHS tapes containing an advert for it at the beginning; however, I don’t actually remember having any real interest in seeing it. My first watch will have been 8-10 years ago when I was actively trying to fill in some of the gaps in my Disney viewing… tonight’s watch will probably be the second and final time that I see this.
Let’s cut straight to the heart of the matter: Oliver & Company is an incredibly flawed film; something even more obvious when watched closely after The Great Mouse Detective. Despite touting in the credits that this film has been inspired by Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, the link is tenuous at best. Other than some shared names and a bit of light thievery, this is utterly unrelated. I mean, Oliver & Company actually takes one of the book’s main villains and tries to turn them into a lovable character – it’s just wrong.
Lovable Fagin aside (a phrase that no one should have to write) one of the things that really doesn’t work is that it feels like a bunch of cliches connected by some rather sub-par songs. By 12 minutes in I was already checking the clock because I was getting bored by just how paint-by-the-numbers it was. I think this might actually turn into a test for Disney films going forward because, by that point in better entries in the canon Disney films, we’ll have been introduced to most of the key players and had some really iconic moments.
Given my rather negative opinion of this film, and the mixed opinions of the contemporary critics, you can imagine my surprise when I found out that Oliver & Company was so successful that it led to Disney planning to eventually increase their output to one feature a year. It probably helped that this was their second big success in a row… but man I still find it hard to believe that this mess of a movie inspired that much confidence.
Next time in the Disney canon I will be watching The Little Mermaid. Finally. I actually cannot wait. This is one of my favourite films of all time and will be the perfect film to watch when I’ve had to go through the roughness that is interviewing to keep my current job. Fingers crossed that it could be a celebration watch!